Mystery Shopping

What is Mystery Shopping?

The covert testing of a store, during which the researcher conducts a ‘real’ visit and, without revealing their role, audits the customer experience.

What are the aims of Mystery Shopping?

This approach is useful in assessing a customer experience against a list of aspects a brand defines as important for delivering a ‘good’ experience for its customers.

Mystery shops are most typically undertaken as part of an on-going customer research programme where regular visits help to maintain consistency and drive up the standard of the customer experience.

They can, however, also be used on ad hoc projects – here the research objectives tend to be about benchmarking the reality of the experience and often include audits of rivals.

Mystery Shopping has lost favour as a research methodology over recent years with brands moving towards the use of customer surveys instead. Fans of the latter point to the fact that they put ‘real’ customers at the heart of the business and, as results are based on much bigger sample sizes, they generate more robust results.

How is Mystery Shopping undertaken?

Before audits can start, the business needs to define the standards it is trying to achieve. These are then shared across the organisation so everyone knows what KPIs they will be measured on.

These standards are then translated into questionnaires or audit form and mystery shoppers are briefed to understand what they need to experience for the required standard to be met.

It’s usually best for mystery shoppers to be similar in profile to customers using the touchpoint being measured – meaning that they won’t stand out or receive a different type of service to that of typical users and as such are representative of the target market.

Following the visit, mystery shoppers enter their feedback online meaning that results can be available within hours of the visit. Increasingly, mystery shoppers will be asked to photograph or video parts of the visit – which helps to bring results to life and ensures consistency of standards across visits.

Pen Portraits
Market Research Society (MRS)